UA Little Rock Gets $50K Grant for Online Marketplace Project

UA Little Rock Gets $50K Grant for Online Marketplace Project
UA Little Rock Ph.D student in computer and information science, Imran Sarker, right, and his computer science professor Mariofanna Milanova, left, received a $50,000 grant from the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program to help bring a new consumer product to market. Sarker is developing RightHand, an online marketplace fueled by artificial intelligence as part of his dissertation research. (Ben Krain)

A University of Arkansas at Little Rock team has received a $50,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps for an online marketplace project.

The team includes Imran Sarker, a Ph.D. student in computer and information science from Bangladesh who is developing the marketplace, called RightHand. The project is described as a "deep learning-based recommendation system" that connects service seekers and service providers within a short period of time and provides real-time updates on service requests.

RightHand has unique features like image and video-based recommendations of local service providers, image and video-based reviews, and language translation, UA Little Rock said in a news release.

Sarker’s team also includes Mariofanna Milanova, professor of computer science at UA Little Rock, and Heather Snell, a senior data scientist at J.B. Hunt. Sarker and Milanova previously received early-stage funding to help bring RightHand to the market through the University of Arkansas I-Corps Site, STEP (STEAM Training in Entrepreneurial Practices) program and the Delta I-Fund program. 

“The grant is helping us to conduct customer discovery interviews so that we can understand the market demand and the needs of our customers,” Sarker said in the release. “It will also help us speed up the process to get the prototype into the production phase.”

Sarker and his team plan to apply for the Small Business Innovation Research program, which encourages domestic small businesses to engage in federal research and development with the potential for commercialization.